The young man is expected to recover, but he was wounded in the head and legs after surprising a bear on private land in its day bed in dense, riparian cover along the Rocky Mountain Front, Madel said.
It was in the Muddy Creek drainage about 20 miles northwest of Choteau close to the southeast corner of the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area, Madel said.
The encounter, which happened around 8:20 a.m. Saturday, is still under investigation, but the thought Saturday afternoon was that neither the hunter, his hunting partner-brother nor the bear did anything wrong, according to Madel.
“Even the hunter didn’t want us to capture the bear,” said Madel, who was able to talk with the hunters. “He didn’t think it did anything wrong.”
Madel did not identify the man.
Madel said bowhunting often requires hunters to do what is exactly the opposite of what should be done to avoid surprising a bear: wearing camouflage, creeping quietly in thick cover, hiking into the wind and wearing elk scent and urine.
“But it’s pretty hard to hunt elk in the open,” Madel said.
He said he didn’t ask the brothers about bear spray because the encounter happened so quickly that the young man would not have had time to get it out, but he strongly encourages hunters to bring bear spray.
“It’s very effective,” he emphasized.
The brothers had separated to hunt when the mauling happened, and the man was able to walk out of the area about 200 to 300 yards and call his brother.
They rushed to the hospital in Choteau and then Madel believes the man was transported to Benefis Health System in Great Falls.
“They did everything exactly right,” Madel said. “They got him to care the quickest way they could from a pretty remote location. I’m just thankful he’s going to be OK.”
Madel and FWP officials went to find the site of the encounter based on interviews with the brothers, but they couldn’t locate it to get hair samples to conduct DNA tests, but it was a lone, medium-sized adult bear that was not part of a family unit, he said.
The wind was screaming and rain and snow were falling, so searching was difficult. Madel said he had his Karelian bear dog with him.
Madel said at about 3 p.m. that they were considering continuing the search for the encounter site in the afternoon.
As more hunters head afield in the coming weeks, Madel urges caution when hunting in grizzly bear habitat. In addition to staying out of areas where visibility is poor, he said be aware of any carcasses in the area. And, he again emphasized carrying bear spray.